Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have at least two things in common: a shared border and the apparent distinction of having rolled the President of the United States. Watching both men go to work on Barack Obama, you would never know that Israel and Egypt were the two largest recipients of American foreign aid. Both men have defied the president, and apparently with little cost.
In the case of Mubarak, it is now playing out live in real time on Al Jazeera. The streets of Cairo seethe and Obama calls for democracy in Egypt. Instead, Mubarak taps Omar Suleiman, a former general and the head of Egyptian Intelligence, as his vice president, and announces that Suleiman will share power with Mubarak. Mubarak tells the world that he made mistakes, but will not leave office anytime soon. Mubarak seems to be taking his cues from Dick Cheney, who called Mubarak “a good man, a good friend” and an ally.
Although Obama has essentially thrown his lot in with the Egyptian Street, the Egyptian military is not impressed, and it is the Egyptian military that appears to count most. Today, Egypt’s army has announced that it supports the transfer of power to Suleiman.
There can be little surprise here. Egypt’s last three leaders came from the military. Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak were officers. Nasser and Sadat overthrew Egypt’s King Farouk in 1952. Mubarak rose to power after Sadat was assassinated in 1981. It is a legacy of bullets.
North of Egypt, in Israel, the government is rooting for Mubarak. Netanyahu is anxious, but he has sized up Obama as weak. Netanyahu’s early fear of Obama has morphed into barely concealed contempt. In 2010, Obama had called for a continuation of Israel’s temporary settlement freeze, but Netanyahu demurred. America offered incentives for the continued freeze, and Israel said, “no thank you.”
And it looks like Netanyahu has bet right. Politico reports that a passel of GOP presidential hopefuls have visited Israel and met with Netanyahu in the past few weeks — Romney, Huckabee and Barbour.
As for America and Obama, what comes next is unclear. But one thing is apparent. America’s CIA chief, Leon Panetta is no General Suleiman. Panetta seems to know little of what is going on. Yesterday, Panetta was predicting that Mubarak would be announcing his departure. It didn’t work out that way.
Have PoliticalMavens.com delivered to your inbox in a daily digest by clicking here